Home News and Features The Green Reapers Bring Their Bounty to Montpelier

The Green Reapers Bring Their Bounty to Montpelier

Boots Wardinski of the Green Reaper. Photo by Alan LePage.
The ‘Green Reaper’ is the humorous name Boots Wardinski has adopted for the horticultural enterprise developed by him and Chris Esten of ‘outback Newbury.’ Wardinski is the very public ‘mouth’ of their small farm, and Esten is the ‘brains.’ 

Carefully maintained propagation beds surround their off-grid homestead in the hilly northwest corner of what is usually thought of as a Connecticut Valley town. Their land is corrugated — high enough elevation to afford a view of the White Mountains, and deserving of the local designation. The sloping land was all worked by hand, stones removed, and infused with organic soil amendments and consummate skill. No internal combustion engines in sight. Indeed, for much of his farming career, Wardinski sugared, logged, and plowed snow with Liza Jane, his beloved horse who worked with him for 25 years. 

Esten has collected, bred, and propagated a collection of stunning and unusual (as well as old standard) perennials since they came to the spot in 1979. It is a place in continuous bloom from spring until fall, and in miniature it is on display most Saturdays at the Capital City Farmers Market in Montpelier. Wardinski and Esten are veterans of several markets. However, this is the only one they currently attend. And … then there are the blueberries, which Esten prunes and picks.

Garlic is a Wardinski specialty. He has cut back production in recent years: few growers could ever match his one-half pound bulbs. Many have asked him how he does it. His replies fall into the “noncommittal” category. I suspect it has to do with the cool woodland glades where his patch is situated. Political activism is another of his specialties, having (unsuccessfully, of course) run for several statewide offices promoting his brand of democratic socialism. He did succeed in being elected president of the market’s board of directors and served an eventful four years in which the market was slated to move to the Vermont College of Fine Arts quadrangle with the help of a large grant from an Obama-era rural development grant.

One never knows for sure what surprises one might find at their stand (saffron crocus bulbs one Saturday), but rest assured that a panoply of peonies will be there this fall. Esten is particularly excited by the Coral and Gold variety, with its unusual shades of those colors. She also is growing winter hardy Korean mums, perhaps available next year. Stay tuned by visiting the farmers market.